Doyle Vermette says Bill 601 is something he’s been pushing the Saskatchewan legislature to pass for years.
“I presented the Bill three times,” he tells APTN News.
The NDP MLA for Cumberland and the opposition critic for northern affairs and mental health is talking about his suicide prevention legislation.
He first proposed it in 2018 – and while it’s taken a number of years to pass.
“The first time that bill was introduced it unfortunately died on the order desk,” he says. “I didn’t make it the second time it did get to a vote and it got voted down by all the members of the government the Sask party government voted it down.”
Vermette says he kept pushing because parents kept urging him to keep trying.
“Parents, those that lost loved ones asked us to continue and asked me to continue to not give up. We said we wouldn’t and we tried our best to bring awareness,” says Vermette.
According to the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Office, from 2005 to 2020, 272 Indigenous women or girls and 411 Indigenous men or boys have taken their lives.
The legislation states that the Health ministry must establish a provincial strategy for suicide prevention within 180 days and consult organizations such as the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
Chief Bobby Cameron says they have been preparing for this and consulting with many communities and specifically the youth.
“Our First Nation people right at the ground level those teachers those kukoms those mushoms those moms those dads and more importantly those youth,” says Cameron.
“That their voices are heard that the direction they are heading is fully implemented to the fullest extent.”
He adds the community, specifically the youth have already said what needs to be done.
“We’ve already had a lot of recommendations, lots of land based programs cultural and language component that holistic approach are just some items,” he says.
Canada is the only G8 country that doesn’t have a national strategy.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, “the suicide rate for First Nations youth is about 6 times higher than for non-Indigenous youth. Among Inuit youth, the suicide rate is about 24 times higher than for non-Indigenous youth.”